England DNA – PART 1 – SMOmeets Suey Smith

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#SMOmeets East Riding’s FA County Coach Developer Suey Smith, we get an insight into her personal journey, how much she loves the England DNA and how she’d like to develop over the next 5 years.

Hi Suey, tell the SMO fans about yourself, start from as far back as you like…

Well, I’ve always been interested in football, started at Hull City, went all the way from under 12’s to open age, loved football but unfortunately didn’t feel there was a lot of opportunity playing as pro, not to say I would have definitely made it, but there just wasn’t the opportunities like there is now, unless I wanted to make the jump across to America; And I’m quite a home girl, so didn’t find that appealing.

Hull City has football in the community project; At the time they were recruiting YT scholars for the coaching side, with John Davies and Marc Ledingham, so on the off chance, I went in, got an interview, about 8 of us, whittled down to 3 to get the role.

Loved it, started my coaching level 1 and 2 in 2001, finding my feet, I then failed my B Licence first time, they thought at 17 I wasn’t ready, which I accepted. I felt like it was ticking boxes at this stage.

Learned so much from John and the guys, working in schools, they then gave me the responsibility of giving my own girls team, so I had under 11’s to under 16’s, which gave me a great understanding of grassroots football.

I left when I turned 21, in 2006, so it was still football in the community, but it started getting bigger and bigger as City were progressing through the leagues. I then left and went to the East Riding FA and did 2 years community sports coaching with girls and disability teams, Hannah Simpson being the women’s officer, she would see what new clubs were being formed and I would go along and support the coach and help them with what they needed.

I think some of the courses got a little stale and the FA introduced some targeted courses, one being the FA Youth Module One, which I was fortunate enough to completed.

You mentioned you were in one of the first ‘Skills Coaching” teams, tell us about that… 

We worked in Primary schools, up-skilling the teachers, working closely with children to develop them on an individual level, it felt very similar to football in the community apart from the focus was on ensuring the teachers could coach the children for years to come, almost like a legacy within schools, so they had a lasting effect on a number of generations and not just who we could coach at the time.

I was there for almost 8 years, I really loved it!

I ended up team leader after Sally Needham went back to Sheffield [where she lived]after 6 years in charge; I learned so much from her. I had great guys like Joe, Tomlinson, Sam Hardy, Kristan Hoskins and Dan O’Keefe, until he left for City, so I had a team of 3, which was a first for me. Dealing with different coaches, I had to learn how different they all worked, they all responded in different ways, different learning styles, so it was tough but enjoyable.

The one thing I knew from the skills programme was, I loved the tutoring side, I got the opportunity 6 years ago to become a Level 1 Tutor, I’d then progressed through the levels and have been lucky enough to given the role of County Coach Developer. This was a new post, Sport England teamed up with the FA, to develop a new level of tutors, tasked with developing and enhancing coaching at grassroots level.

So, the modules, are they based around different aspects of the game, or different levels of the game?

The modules are great, as long as you have your Level 1, you can be working with someone with a module 1 and someone with an A Licence, I’ve been fortunate to support and deliver courses around the region; Up in Northumberland, I recently had Steve Harper the goalkeeper on his Module 1, 2 and 3… so I’m thinking, what could I possibly teach you, when you’ve been at the level of the game?

Teaching the pro’s and ex-pro’s to understand the players more, which will help them mould their practices, help them with interventions; It’s similar to teaching, this old “Stop, stand still” is changing, it’s evolving so much, it’s about giving players individual challenges, they may have certain players that can’t progress and coaches have to recognise that.

How are you finding working local again?

I love the fact I’ve come back to the East Riding, I first got the job as the county coach developer, but in North Riding, so I spent my days travelling the whole county, from York, to Scarborough, to Middlesborough and as much as I loved it, they were long days.

And then Andy Foster was offered a national role within the FA, so an opportunity to transfer back; I love East Riding, I love Hull, I’ve worked with a lot of grassroots clubs.

It makes the role easier, but a lot more rewarding, I feel like I’m having a positive influence on an area where I was brought up!

You’re always on duty, I can be walking in Asda, and you get “Hi, I was on your course 2 years ago!” and we’ll stand and have a conversation of how they’ve developed as coaches. They often say, I didn’t see it on the course, but as the years have gone by, I can see it through the development of the kids, and I understand it all now! I can see what it all meant.

You seemed to start at a young age, is this what you wanted to always do?

If I’m completely honest, I have no idea, I enjoyed school, but I was more of a practical person; Most reports were “She can’t sit still, she’s easily distracted, but she’s a peoples person and loved PE!”

I always thought PE Teaching might be an option, but after speaking to John and Marc at City in the Community, it just naturally happened!

Football was my real passion and there was only one winner from there.

Ok, so still on coaching, long term or short term, what are the biggest challenges in your role?

It’s not so much a challenge, but because of modern times, social media, how many books and information is so accessible, online, TV, is… there are quite a lot of people who are forgetting how simple this game is. Too much information, sometimes, yes…. you get coaches on courses and they say they read articles or books, and they’re 1000 pages long, which is great because they’re taking their time to read something different about the game, but the biggest thing I can say is, go and experience it. It’s great to read to support your knowledge, but put your boots on and get on the grass! Just experience it.

“What’s football? It’s a ball and 2 goals… just play it; Add to it and play it again!”

They’ll read something different next week that contradicts what they learned before and they’ll change it.

Stick to your philosophy, understand it, and gain experience and knowledge by doing it.

How do you think coaching has changed over the last 5 years? Good or Bad?

Positively, coaches now realise, they don’t have to be screaming and shouting on the touchline and telling the players what to do, they can impart their knowledge and actually trust the players to do what they would like. It’s not about the coach anymore, it’s about the players. Put on practices that show they trust the players, that they know what to do.

The revised courses show that there are different ways to plan these sessions and reviewing the sessions to understand what went well, how they’ve delivered.

So the coaches can analyse theirselves?

Yes, a lot of coaches film their sessions, see the positives, we utilise a great app called Hive, so coaches can upload their work and fellow coaches can help them review what they’ve done.

Another part of my role on the odd occasion is to go down and see how local coaches work, looking ‘in-situ’ support, so I can go down to their club, in their environment and understand how they are with the players, what they have to go through, and I think that’s brilliant.

So when you talk about change, the support we can now give local coaches as FA Tutors, is massive, as what coaches want support inside of their club.

Whilst I can’t get to every session, what I have said is, get someone with an iPad, film it, send it to me, and in my place of work, I can review and send appropriate feedback to help you in your learning. Or you can pre-empt feedback and your thoughts and I can say whether your reflections are a true review of your work.

It’s not all about being there, let’s use the technology to help more coaches.

Do you have any other thoughts?

There a very few negatives right now, but one is, we don’t want miss out and neglect the coaches that just want to do their level 1’s. It’s great that we have the coaches that want constant progression, and want to increase their knowledge base, but the level 1’s who are a parent and want to help their kids, they don’t see it as a career, but would like an understanding, we need to ensure their input and communication after the course is readily available to share – so how do we support those parents?

So the use of Continuing Professional Development [CPD] and the app Hive, coaches can interact with recorded sessions, asking questions and seeing how they can continue learning without necessarily taking more courses, they can still work with the East Riding County FA and we can feedback and it’s not just CPD, it might new courses for girls clubs etc. There’s so much on there!

What changes do you think the future holds for both football and coaching after 2 years of the 10 year plan?

I’d like to see in my role, is better communications to all coaches, so that’s not a County FA task, my role can stop coaches dropping out the system, so the learners that didn’t quite pass their level 2, where are they now? Have they just dropped out because they think they’ve been unsuccessful, and they’ve just lost their passion for the game.

So reaching out to these guys, there are lot’s of coaches that have done module 3, but haven’t been assessed, so let’s get in touch, let’s send them an email to see why haven’t they? Are they busy? Do they not know who to contact? I can then understand what’s needed to help them carry on. Knowing they have 1:1 support from me.

I can motivate them and help them with their log book, their assessments etc.

The FA realised that to improve the game, it’s about the quality of our coaching, keeping players engaged!

Think of the film Kez! Old school coaching which was right for that era, but it was just about passing on your knowledge from your time. We need to do more then that.

The stats that we keep hearing are that all of these neighbouring countries have more coaches then us; But no one seems to ask why? What do you think is being done. 

Well, first of all, many of those stats are skewed, whilst we only take active coaches in the UK into consideration for our data, other countries like Germany and Spain included anyone thats ever taken the course since time began, so we’re not comparing like for like.

Sport England have again bursaries to each County FA, so currently I’m running a level 2, so it’s the last weekend at St Mary’s Sports Academy, we’ve got 32 on the course, so it’s really cool… it used to be £140, but because of the money invested, it’s now £40!

So not only will there be more courses, they’re going to be more flexible with times, and they’re going to be cheaper to progress. The level 1 may always be the same, but if someone does want to progress, we have offered incentives to increase your knowledge base.

The quality is the same, it’s because of the part funding, we can offer them at a lower rate!

What’s been your most memorable moment in coaching? 

– I’ve got a few, away from tutoring, I’m one of the first team coaches at Doncaster Belles; Working with a great team, Emma Coates as first team manager, the learning experience as a coach has been brilliant, and being part of a team that is a great memory.

– Things like Hull City Girls, starting at under 11’s, some of those girls are now about 24, so growing older with them and getting to know families, seeing them progress as not only players, but some are parents now, seeing that cycle has been brilliant.

– Lastly tutoring and coaching, I’ve been to China, Bahamas, Dubai… so I’ve experienced, different cultures.

Bahamas, seeing how they delivery sessions, it’s so laid back, realising it’s not their first sport. The kids love the English, so building those relationships, was excellent.

In China and Dubai, we had interpreters, so how we delivered was extremely different, so I couldn’t waffle as I’m probably doing now, it had to be precise information, and even if you through a little banter in for a little giggle, you expect them to laugh back, and you don’t get that feedback, it’s very difficult! ha

In China, we tried to put the candidates in groups, so it was in groups of 4 or 5, and before we could start working, they’d moved everything back into lines. They could understand the concepts of group work; When we utilised a flip chart of Dry Wipe Board, they didn’t grasp the feedback sessions, so you can underestimate the challenges of culture within football and how different it is.

What about being a young woman in these environments? 

It was fine in China, in Dubai is was different, we worked with the Afghanistan FA, it wasn’t actually safe there, so we met in Dubai, mutual ground, and whilst I didn’t feel uncomfortable, the 6 muslim ladies that were taking part, had their headscarfs on, I was there, white female… shorts and t-shirt, not so sure how they’d think about it… I’d be delivering a task, so of the men would simply walk off. Now, Jack, one of my colleagues, literally said, “it’s not personal, it’s culture and religion, they don’t really listen to what females have to say” so it was hard to rally up players, because people would walk off when I was trying to coach.

It was easier to accept knowing it wasn’t about me.

Then after one of the courses, one of the guys approached me and handed a nice sketch drawing, and it was actually of me.

One of the guys said, for him to do that, is a huge sign of respect! So that was nice.

These countries still look for us to lead the way, and that’s why we’ve got to all believe in the England DNA and what we’re looking to develop over the 10 year plan.

What would you like to do personally?

I’ve got a lot to learn within this role, it’s only been a year; I have 4 tutors that I work with and I’ve got to ensure their journey and development is what they want it to be and what we’d like to see from them as they’re going.

We’ve recently had a large review to ensure we’re working in the right direction.

The team of Steve Mulligan, Paul Smith, Tom Lee and Jamie Barnwell are a pleasure to work with, the coaches of East Riding are lucky they have such talent to call upon and I’m convinced we’ve got the right people in place, I’ll support them to the best of my ability and ensure the learners have the best experience of the England DNA and of coaching.

No doubt they’ll challenge me, because they’re that type of guys, they want to learn, they want to progress themselves.

The new coaching pathway is really positive, it links into the England DNA, with 5 core elements, Who we are, How we Play, The Future England Player, How we Coach, How we Support and all the courses are based around blocks of the bigger plan.

They’ll not just see it, they’ll live it, coach it and see how it filters down to the players.

If you could pick a role now, anything, what would it be?

Does a millionaire count? I just want to travel the world!

Not trying to brown nose, but Andy Foster, Julie Chipchase, they’ve done so much in football from a coaching development perspective, on regional and national levels. Even doing something similar to Tony Pennack at the Academy, and within club football. I like the youth development aspect, I’m not sure I’d like the pressures of the manager.

It starts at the bottom and it takes a lot of dedication, unsociable hours, a lot of learning, and when I’m ready!

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